Ridgefield officials mull options to bring sewer project to fruition

RIDGEFIELD — Construction of a new pump line connecting two of the town’s sewer plants will break ground a year later than expected due to overage costs caused by the pandemic.

The installation of the infrastructure and subsequent closure of the District II sewage treatment plant, which serves the area around the intersection of Routes 7 and 35, was estimated to cost $5.8 million. The bids for that project, however, came in “substantially over what the estimate was,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The lowest bid came from M&O Construction Co., Inc. in New Milford at $8.3 million. Additional “soft costs,” such as on-site engineering, brings the total expenditure to more than $9 million, Marconi said.

“What we are looking at is a difference of ... over $3.4 million,” he added.

The question now is where the remaining funds to complete the project will come from. The town could either bond the money itself or use a portion of its American Rescue Plan allocation.

Because Ridgefield’s charter requires a referendum to approve an expenditure of more than $3 million, officials are eyeing to bring the cost below $3 million and move the item to a town meeting instead.

“To go to a referendum costs money as well,” Marconi explained.

On Monday, Marconi met with the town clerk, the registrar of voters and finance director Kevin Redmond to discuss potentially holding a referendum on Oct. 9. They also discussed potentially earmarking $500,000 from the Water Pollution Control Authority, which would bring the cost down to $2.9 million.

Additional grant funding could shave another $600,000 off the total, Marconi added, meaning the town would use less of the American Rescue Plan money.

The WPCA oversees all of Ridgefield’s sewer operations. This Monday members will convene to possibly vote on approving additional funds for the project, according to a meeting agenda.

Project history

A top-to-bottom renovation of the District I treatment plant on South Street is approximately 50 percent complete. The goal is to close the District II plant and pipe that wastewater to South Street for treatment at the upgraded District I plant through a new force-main sewer line.

Voters approved $48 million for the two projects in 2018. Both were designed and are being overseen by the consulting firm AECOM.

The state pushed the town to undertake the project to meet new regulations and environmental standards under the federal Clean Water Act. Upgrades to the District II plant, which is 30 years old, were sidelined since the town would’ve had to hire personnel to operate the facility 24/7.

“When you begin calculating all of those costs to upgrade the plant due to age and environmental standards, it’s extremely expensive, hence the reason to go with the pump station,” Marconi said. “The capacity numbers will not be impacted at all. Everyone who has sewage capacity in that plant today will have it tomorrow.”

Marconi expects the second phase of the sewer project to break ground in the spring of 2022.

Macklin Reid contributed to this story.